Scott Hairston, who has not appeared in a Grapefruit League game since straining his left oblique muscle in his first spring game, tracked 20 pitches from minor leaguers on Sunday afternoon, followed by a round of batting practice which he pronounced successful:
I wasn’t holding back at all. I picked up the ball pretty well today and was happy with that. Tomorrow I’m basically going to do what I did today. If everything goes well, games would be right around the corner. I’ve got to make sure I’m right, number one. The rest of it isn’t my decision.”
While Hairston seems to be progressing, Mets manager Terry Collins is very concerned about Andres Torres; who is taking much longer than expected to return from a strained left calf.
“He’s not a whole lot better,” Collins said of Torres, according to Andy Martino of the Daily News. “Each day means more time off, as far as him coming back. It’s a pretty big piece of the puzzle. We got him to fill a big void for us, and him being out, out of the gate, and with Scott hurt, we’re going to scramble.”
So where would the Mets turn if neither player is ready for the clubs April 5th home opener versus the Atlanta Braves? General manager Sandy Alderson indicated his preference for an “a natural centerfielder when we go north.” With Kirk Nieuwenhuis nursing an oblique injury, that leaves Adam Loewen, Mike Baxter, Jordany Valdespin (a natural infielder) and Matt den Dekker (who was sent down to minor league camp less than two weeks ago was invited back last Thursday) as the main contenders. Of the four, however, only den Dekker is a “natural” centerfielder and he is hoping to make the most of his opportunity:
You want to make the most of your opportunities. Try to play the defense I know I can play and get my offensive game going. I’ve got a little bit of pop, and when I get to a ball, I can hit it out. But more of my game is getting on base. Last year I struck out a bunch, and I’d like to cut down on that a little bit this year. Try to get on base and let the other guys drive me in. Try to cut down my swing a little bit with two strikes. Put the ball in play and use my legs.”
The New York Mets fifth round selection in the 2010 first year players draft hit just .265 with 17 home runs and 24 stolen bases over 539 Single-A and Double-A at-bats in 2011, but has impressed enough that manager Terry Collins said he “is a legitimate consideration” to make the team.
According to Andy Martino of the Daily News, the organization is high on the University of Florida product, as one team official predicted:
He’s going to be a Gold Glove center fielder, with power.”
While I realize the organization believes he’s capable of playing defense at the big league level right now, I find it hard to believe he is anything close to ready offensively. The former fifth round selection posses a nice balance of power and speed, but his strikeout totals over his first two years in the Mets minor league system (189 strikeouts in 661 at-bats) are staggering and since being recalled to Mets camp, he is 0-for-8 with two runs scored and through 23 Grapefruit League at-bats, has collected only three hits:
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